My tiny little bundle of joy is now a hulking great 6 year old (nearly 7) and is about to take his first government organised tests, known as SATs.
My heart says he is too little to be judged, labelled, become a statistic.
My head tells me that this could help him by allowing the teachers to identify gaps in his learning that need to be covered to help him to progress through junior school and beyond.
I admit that I am hardly reassured by the government’s stance on education. Putting more pressure on our overworked teachers to get results which are harder to achieve. Last year’s fiasco with the spelling SAT did little to improve my opinion of these tests, which may even be scrapped in the near future.
Of course, Matthew has already been assessed at the end of Year R, Anya has ongoing tracking through preschool and even Zach had a developmental questionnaire to check his progress at 12 months. So really, my heart is talking nonsense. Our kids are judged immediately after birth, we are always comparing them to others. The difference is that this time is seems official.
With my exam invigilator head on (read my advice to my kids!), I think kids need to grow in confidence with exams rather than scared. We didn’t have SATs when I was a child (my little sister did). Are the children I see not working in exams just fed up of the constant testing? Has it lost its value in their eyes?
But with my mum head on, I’m more concerned with whether my children have friends, if they are happy, polite human beings. Their scores in these tests won’t mean a lot to me but I can see their usefulness in showing areas that need to be targeted to encourage later achievement. I also take into consideration that children develop at different rates: Matthew wouldn’t even hold a pencil when he began school whereas Anya who starts in Septemebr does beautiful drawings and can write her name (and more!)
The school don’t make a big deal of the SATs and many children don’t realised they are being tested. The SATS in Key Stage 1 are marked within the school and are combined with teacher assessments in other subjects to give an overall snapshot of progress and attainment, giving a baseline for their continuing educational journey so in that sense they are a valuable tool.
I will be encouraging Matthew to try hard on any ‘quizzes’ he has coming up over the next month and will praise him whatever the results. But his achievements will never be as important to me as his happiness.